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Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The pandemic has wreaked financial havoc on universities across the country. But while Power 5 schools are finally getting financial relief from their lucrative football programs, Division I's "have-nots" are still drowning.

Driving the news: The University of California, Riverside, which competes in the Big West Conference but doesn't play football, is considering dropping all 15 sports to cut costs.

By the numbers: UC Riverside is the most subsidized D-I athletic department in the country, per USA Today, with more than 90% of its $23.2 million in annual revenue coming from institutional support ($18.7 million) and student fees ($2.3 million).

  • Revenues (2019): $18.7m in school support; $2.3m in student fees; $646k in rights/licensing; $151k in ticket sales; $816k in 'other" = $23.2 million
  • Expenses (2019): $7.7m on coaching/staff; $4.8m on scholarships; $92k on facilities/overhead; $11m on "other" = $24.2 million

The state of play: School officials project a loss of $32 million in state funds due to the pandemic. Eliminating sports expenses while redirecting school funds elsewhere could help alleviate some of that financial stress.

The other side: Athletic director Tamica Smith-Jones has proposed an alternative solution, ESPN's Myron Medcalf reports.

  • Her plan involves increasing student fees (currently $105 per student) and expanding the athletic department to include recreational programs.

What's next: UC Riverside is expected to make a decision before the end of the year and possibly as early as next month.

Data: NCAA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: D-I, D-II and D-III athletics exist in entirely different galaxies. But even within the top division, itself, there's a huge gap between the UCLA's and UC Riverside's of the world.

  • With football underway and basketball nearing its return, Power 5 schools are back to generating millions of dollars from TV deals (plus some ticket sales) despite many of their campuses looking like ghost towns.
  • Meanwhile, UC Riverside and other smaller D-I school that rely primarily on institutional support and student fees are scrambling.

The bottom line: The Division I divide was best illustrated in a recent Knight Commission study, in which college administrators showed an openness for radical restructuring.

  • 61% of Power 5 administrators said they'd support breaking away and creating a fourth division for Power 5 programs in all sports except basketball.
  • All other segments of Division I — Group of Five, FCS and non–football playing members — were categorically opposed to that plan.

Go deeper: Inside the world of college sports financing (Axios)

Go deeper

Nov 19, 2020 - Sports

The broken buyout system in college sports

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

College football and basketball coaches earn wildly lucrative sums of money to do their jobs. The problem, though, is how much they sometimes get paid not to do them.

Driving the news: Just this week, there were two high profile cases where departing coaches earned upwards of eight figures on their way out.

Nov 18, 2020 - Podcasts

Joe Biden's plan to forgive student debt

President-elect Biden this week endorsed a proposal to immediately forgive up to $10,000 in student debt, with some experts arguing he could do so via executive action.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Mike Pierce, policy director for the Student Borrower Protection Center, about Biden's plan, why it matters and what comes next.

3 hours ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”